SharePoint on Azure: several lessons learned

We got back from Convergence on Friday. I had a good time overall; good food, good times, crazy things to see. Never did make it to Acme Oyster House (sorry dad!).

Meanwhile, we’ve migrated a public SharePoint site to Azure. I should say we’ve migrated a SharePoint 2010 internet site to SharePoint 2013 running in the 14-hive. Many of my colleagues throughout the SharePoint community I’ve spoke to have this to say about that:

In the last few weeks we’ve learned some valuable lessons. Here they are (in no particular order):

  • Search scopes – I chose to not migrate the Search databases because migrating the content db was hard enough. Plus, when we complete the upgrade to 2013 I would just have 1 DB to focus on. In doing so, I don’t have scopes anymore since they’ve been deprecated in SharePoint 2013. You can’t even use PowerShell to add them. The fix was to revert back to the All Sites scope. It isn’t the end of the world though because the Search Service App is smart enough to see the variation you’re searching from and serve up that site’s content. For example, if you search for bikes on the German site, you’ll get German site content back to you, rather than UK or US content.
  • SharePoint Designer – Someone wanted a quick change to a page layout. Good news here is that only 1 page in the overall site uses that page layout. SharePoint Designer 2010 works but I was unable to add another web part zone the page layout. As a workaround I added the HTML directly to the page layout. Again, not the end of the world here, but it definitely isn’t what I would want to do. Adding a web part zone would have allowed me to drop additional content in the future or replace it altogether from the Edit Page rather than editing the Page layout.
  • compat.Browser config – We never bothered with mobile sites in SharePoint 2010 with this site. All we did was turn off the mobile browsers in the compat.browser config. I did the same for SharePoint 2013 (set all ismobiledevice to false) then reset IIS. However, this did not result in success. Got hit with a vague SharePoint error. I started looking on the interwebs for help and ran across this: LINK. Followed Option 2 and hit pay dirt. It does seem out there to have to drop a statement in to the overall web.config but I had to get things working. Once we migrate to SharePoint 2013 we’ll remove the statement and make use of device channels but since we’re still running in the 14-hive I don’t get that functionality quite yet.
  • Azure IaaS growing pains – IaaS is still in preview, and thus you’re subject to wonkiness and issues beyond your control. A few days ago we experienced an outage on the site. SharePoint couldn’t talk to SQL for some reason. Logged on the SQL box and couldn’t even connect to the SQL instance. The service was running but still no dice. Well, time for a restart and Yahtzee! everything was better. I went through the logs as best I could but had no idea what I was looking for. Come to find out Azure pushed down restarts. In doing so, SQL came back before the AD instance did so nothing was authenticating properly. HUGE lesson learned there. Best way to overcome this is to start using Availability Sets: link to documentation.
  • Calculated Column issues – had a user come to me with this one. The user noticed that a calculated column was throwing a string of characters into the column. I went and checked the column settings and miraculously the issue was gone. I edited another item and got the exact same string again. So it would appear that it wasn’t the formula but rather something was going on in the DB. Luckily I was at Convergence and there were a handful of SharePoint support folks in the Expo hall. Ran by their booth and showed them the issue. Thankfully this is a known issue and installing the March PU will fix everything: link to PU. One other note, according to the KB, you MUST install this PU if you ever hope to install a future CU.

That’s about it for now.

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